from Net Politics and Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

Cyber Week in Review: April 7, 2017

April 07, 2017

Blog Post

Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:

1. How can I turn this into a he said/Xi said headline? President Trump is hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago club this weekend for their first face-to-face encounter, and cyber issues are not expected to be discussed. That's in sharp contrast to the Obama's administration's approach which raised the issue with senior Chinese interlocutors at every opportunity as part of a campaign to stem the theft of U.S. intellectual property for commercial gain. There could be a number of explanations why cyber topics are unlikely to be discussed, but the smart money is on two theories. First, the deal President Obama struck with Xi in September 2015 seems to be holding, making it potentially unnecessary to discuss Chinese cyber activity for now. Second, President Trump has said he wants to focus on the U.S. trade deficit with China and the North Korean nuclear program. Silence from the U.S. side does not mean that Xi's team might not bring it up. Chinese officials I spoke to earlier this year expressed a continued desire to maintain high-level cyber talks. The likeliest cyber-related outcome of this weekend's meeting is a commitment to maintaining the high-level joint dialogue on cybercrime and scheduling its next meeting.

2. Mark your calendars: the lawful access debate gets solved in June. EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová announced that the European Commission will unveil a proposal that would ensure EU governments have the ability to compel communication service providers to hand over user data to authorities. The United Kingdom, France and Germany--all of which have been victims of recent terrorist attacks and have found obtaining the chat logs of suspects troublesome--have put pressure on the Commission to find an EU-wide solution. For some app makers, retrieving user data is impossible even if compelled to do so because it is encrypted. And even if the requested data is not encrypted, retrieving it may be challenging given that the data may reside outside of the EU's jurisdiction. Jourová said she expects to unveil a mix of legislative and voluntary measures in June.

3. A delicate balancing act. Ministers responsible for digital issues in the G20 met in Dusseldorf, Germany for a two-day meeting and issued a declaration on "Shaping Digitalization for an Interconnected World." According to Germany, this was the first time that ministers with responsibilities over digital issues met as part of the G20 process. However, it was not the first time digital trade has been on the G20 agenda. Last year's Hangzhou declaration mentioned digital economy issues and the 2015 summit included a prohibition on the theft of intellectual property for commercial gain. This latest declaration includes carefully crafted language on the free flow of information (while respecting domestic and international law), the importance of a multistakeholder approach to policy development (but each stakeholder should stick it its own role and responsibilities), and that tech standards are consistent with WTO trade rules (although they can be overridden by "legitimate public policy goals.")

4. A textbook example of the Streisand Effect. The Trump administration is withdrawing its request that Twitter hand over the user details the individual (or individuals) behind the @ALT_USCIS account. Shortly after President Trump's inauguration, a number of Twitter accounts were created claiming to represent the views of Trump dissenters within the federal civil service, and @ALT_USCIS is believed to be run by employees of the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service. Twitter announced it was challenging the Trump's administration demand to unmask those behind the account on free speech grounds, but later withdrew its suit after the Trump administration retracted its request. As is often the case on the internet, requesting that something be taken down often brings it more publicity--a phenomenon known as the Streisand effect. In the twenty-four hours since the Trump administration's request became public, @ALT_USCIS has quadrupled the numbers of its followers.

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